When the Czech president Václav Klaus stood to eulogize the former Czech president Václav Havel at a requiem mass last December, mourners in Prague’s soaring St. Vitus Cathedral listened with great anticipation. What would one half of the Czech Republic’s founding rivalry have to say about the other?

“A great president, politician, intellectual and artist has left us; a person who will be remembered with gratitude, reverence, and respect,” Klaus said. “Undoubtedly much is leaving with Václav Havel; however, at the same time, and in particular thanks to his consistent attitudes in life, there is much that is not leaving, and it is incumbent upon us not to let it go.”

It was a tribute to the man with whom Klaus had famously clashed for some twenty years. The War of the Václavs was, until Havel’s death, the great personal drama and cliché of Czech...

 

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